Review: ‘The Last Romance’ at Thunder River Theatre

Willie Moseley and Wendy Perkins in "The Last Romance"
Will Grandbois / Post Independent |

If You Go …

What: ‘The Last Romance,’ presented by Thunder River Theatre Company

Where: Thunder River Theatre, Carbondale

When: Through Dec. 24

How much: $15-$30


More info: In addition to the Carbondale shows, the Snowmass Chapel will host performances Jan. 20-28.

Amid yapping dogs, dramatic arias and a dose of heartache, Thunder River Theatre Co.’s latest production finds a sweet, funny tale of a December-December romance.

“The Last Romance,” which opened last weekend and runs through Dec. 24 in Carbondale, invites us into an unlikely love story between two elderly denizens of a Hoboken, New Jersey, dog park.

Ralph (Willie Moseley) is a widower, a retired railroad man and an opera lover who once harbored hopes of a singing career. He doesn’t have a dog, but is hanging around hoping to pick up Carol (Wendy Perkins), who visits daily with a “rat-like” chihuahua named Peaches.

In the first few scenes, Carol is shocked at first to be getting hit on at the dog park at first by this brazen 80-year-old. But steadily, of course, she gives in to his charms.

Ralph’s sister, Rose (Chip Winn Wells) has other ideas. Pining for her long-estranged husband, she’s bitter, rigid and more than a little protective of her brother. She goes great lengths to squash Ralph and Carol’s romance. Both of them have secrets to keep, which makes for a rocky road to this sunset love story.

Ralph is goofy but lovable. He’s played charmingly by local theater vet Moselely, who makes excellent use of his rubber face and pliable voice to ham it up and keep the audience giggling through the courtship. Perkins brings a refreshing depth to her Carol — we can see she has some emotional baggage that’s keeping her at a distance from Ralph, at first, but she manages to keep us guessing about the source of her ambivalence. By the time they actually hold hands, we’re cheering for them both and we keep rooting to the bittersweet conclusion.

The show, directed by Mike Monroney, has a handful of sure-to-please flourishes, including fantastic interstitial opera performances by singer Chris Cascketta and a cameo from that rat dog (played many nights by adoptable dogs from a local shelter).

Some of the well-trod tropes of AARP-crowd comedy are trotted out here for cheap laughs — there’s a rant about not understanding rap music, for instance, and about how men used to dress properly in neckties and how people swear too much these days. There are bits about watching “Jeopardy!” and about bingo night. While much of that terrain is predictable and groan-worthy, playwright Joe DiPietro also mines it for a few new gems (like the quip, “He’s quite a catch. He can still drive at night.”) that play well.

But, in the end, “The Last Romance” is a sweet escape that will steal your heart.